Diocese Looks to Rome for Molest Claims Rule

By Josh Richman
Oakland Tribune
November 16, 2004

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Oakland has prepared case statements on seven priests accused of molesting children, and sent those papers to Rome for guidance on how to proceed.

Sister Barbara Flannery, the diocese's chancellor, said Mon day that the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith will review the reports and advise the diocese whether it sees enough evidence to proceed with a formal canonical trial -- which could lead to defrocking the priests -- or to pursue some lesser action or drop the case altogether.

Flannery said the diocese has little doubt any of these seven priests are utterly guiltless, but some cases have less evidence than others, and "the church affords due process to its priests." The case statements sent to Rome include an independent interviewer's account of the vic tims' stories, signed off on by the victims themselves, to ensure the diocese hasn't skewed any facts, she added.

Flannery wouldn't name the seven priests Monday. But sources confirmed they include:

Retired Fremont priest Robert Freitas, now of Hayward, who pleaded guilty to having molested a parishioner in 1980 and was sentenced to six months in jail, yet had his conviction and sentence vacated after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling invalidated a 1994 law extending the statute of limitations in child molestation cases. Freitas last year agreed to pay his victim $16 million to settle a civil lawsuit but hasn't begun paying.

Retired Antioch priest Robert Ponciroli, now of Florida, who was arrested and extradited to Contra Costa County early last year on charges he molested two altar boys decades ago. His case was thrown out under the same Supreme Court ruling as Freitas'.

Retired Concord priest Donald Eugene Broderson, now of Richmond, against whom eight men filed civil lawsuits claiming he abused them as children. Broderson also worked at parishes in Fremont, Alameda, Hayward, Dublin and Castro Valley.


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